Professionalism in Indie Publishing –– The Value of a Collective by Liza Perrat

The Merriam-Webster online dictionary defines professionalism as: the conduct, aims or qualities that characterize or mark a profession or a professional person. So, how does this relate to an authors’ collective?

For years, self-published novels evoked to me images of poorly-written, shoddily put-together books. Unprofessional products. Something I certainly did not want for the months, or years, of slaving over a novel.

Several years ago I was fortunate to join an online writing group, and thanks to the keen editorial eyes and unfailing support of the members, my writing improved. After endless revisions, I finally had a story I believed was fit for the public eye, and happily packed it off to my agent. But she was not able to arouse the slightest interest from any of the big traditional publishing houses. So, what next? If I wanted to get my book to readers, self-publishing seemed my only viable option. But I wanted a professional-looking book, in content, design and marketing –– a task that, alone, seemed beyond my reach.

At that point, two writers from the online group in a similar situation approached me. We discussed our fears: homemade covers, poor typesetting, unprofessional presentation and inappropriate marketing. Not to mention the sense of isolation. None of us wanted this; we wanted to create books that would be indistinguishable from those professionally produced. After months of planning and discussion, sharing everything between three seemed far less formidable, and the authors’ collective, Triskele Books was born.

How could this collective help us obtain a professional product?

Firstly, we decided we needed a brand; a recognizable logo backed with a strong theme. We came up with the Triskele logo, the origin of which represents what we stand for: three independent circles resembling three scrolls, joined to create something entirely new. Since we all share a passion for “place” in our story-telling, the location theme seemed suited.

We discussed quality of content and design. To maintain our professional brand, we’ve provided mutual critiques, editing and proofreading, all of which are more efficient as a collective, rather than one’s own unobjective eyes. We pull apart each other’s work, argue over it, whilst trying to keep in mind the author’s individual style and vision. After final revisions, we proofread one other’s manuscripts. We employed a professional designer for personal websites, the collective website, cover designs and typesetting –– someone with valuable publishing experience who had insight into our personal desires whilst creating a unity for Triskele Books.

And what about professionalism in terms of marketing and networking?

The advantage of a collective in this respect is sharing workload. Each member takes on certain tasks, which the others know will be done to the best of her ability. We rely on one other, and take comfort in the fact that these daunting tasks are more manageable when shared.

But surely a professional product costs money?

Yes, creating a professional product necessitates a financial commitment. This is a collective, each author retaining her own rights and profits, but for it to get off the ground, we all contributed an equal sum to cover website, promotional material, design and launch funds. When we need to add funds, we do so. Absolute trust in the other members is essential, and none of us would have taken on such a project without total trust in each other, both on a financial, and an emotional, level.

So, what’s happening now?

The first books are on sale! We’ve celebrated our launch, and I think the other girls were as proud as me to show off our professional “product”. Now, flailing about in the tide of marketing, we are finding the collective more valuable than ever. We share helpful sites, information and opportunities, and each book displays an ad for the other two, thus promoting all three at once.

We hope to recruit more Triskelites –– authors with the same commitment to professional quality; a book won’t be published under the label without the full backing and agreement of each member.

Independently publishing novels to a professional standard has proved to be hard, frustrating and exciting work. We’ve shared the angst, the uncertainties, the mistakes, and learned a lot in a short time. We’ve gained valuable advice from successful independently-published authors, swapped marketing and networking opportunities. We’ve grown to depend on each other whilst retaining our individuality. And we believe we’ve found a way to blend professionally-published books with independent publishing.

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Liza Perrat is an Australian author who trained as a midwife, and now lives and writes in Lyon, France. Her short stories have won several prizes, notably the Writer’s Bureau annual short story award of 2004. Her stories have been published in various anthologies and small press magazine and her articles on French tradition and culture have been published in international magazines such as France Magazine and France Today. She has completed four novels and is represented by Judith Murdoch of the Judith Murdoch Literary Agency. You can read more about Liza on her website, her blog, the Triskele Books website, and her Author Page.

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16 thoughts on “Professionalism in Indie Publishing –– The Value of a Collective by Liza Perrat”

  1. This concept really speaks to me and I can see this working very well. I know that it would take trust but it would also take confidence in the other members of the collective. A really intriguing idea – thanks!

    1. Thanks for your comment, Jo-Anne. Yes, I think absolute confidence in the other members it vital for the collective to work. We all "knew" each other for several years beforehand, via the online writing group, so were fairly sure we shared the same hopes and expectations.

  2. What an eye-opening idea. Sites like IU are already doing some of these things, albeit in an informal way but perhaps these collectives are the next step in the evolution of indie publishing.

    Good luck and thanks for showing that indie authors don't have to be alone.

    1. Thanks for your comment, Meeks. Yes, I have a feeling that collectives are the way to go for indie publishers. Alone, it's hard work, not to mention the feelings of isolation. There's also something about "safety in numbers", as long as your fellow "numbers" have the same ideals as you!

  3. I've read about several collectives that I would be more than interested in joining at some point. This will be one more to read up on. The idea of a collective committed to quality and professionalism is fantastic. Plus the idea of a woven network of support is wonderful. Glad you all are there for each other!

    BC Brown ~ Paranormal, Mystery, Romance, Fantasy

    "Because Weird is Good."

  4. Thanks for your support, BC Brown! Yes, it's a great comfort to us, to know the others are there, each pulling the other back into the ring when she's down for the count! Despite the hard work though, it's also much more fun, sharing the joys!

  5. Collectives are definitely the way to go. Paganarchy Press who publish my fiction books have gone one step further and formed a limited company, but in actual operation they are still a collective, approving and editing books to professional standard.

    It makes a big difference in the quality of the material out there.

  6. Absolutely true. I am the marketing director for the Northwest Independent Writers Association, a collective of independent writers and publishers who have a dual mission. We support indie writers and we fight the stigma associated with indie publishing. We are 70+ members strong and share marketing tips, editing resources, you name it. We have also developed a review process and award a NSQ (NIWA seal of quality) to books that demonstrate the author has a grasp of English composition, plot arc and formatting standards. Those who are awarded seals have their books promoted at various events, are on the website's commerce page, and are included in our book catalog. The power of a collective is a wonderful thing.

  7. Thanks for your comment, Pam…I've just had a look at your NIWA, and it looks great!I'd have loved to join, but I'm in the wrong country, I think. Best of luck with it.

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